Dear Kids Wish Network Team Members;
I wanted to take this opportunity to share heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to join Austin Burnette and his Grandmother Cheryl Stevens on their Kids Wish Network sponsored evening at the AMAs (American Music Awards).
Our adventure began the night before, when we met up in the beautiful atrium lobby restaurant for a midnight snack. They had a long travel day and were plenty hungry, so we indulged in delicious quesadillas and Dr. Pepper, Austin’s drink of choice! The meal was the perfect complement to the stories told, laughter shared and friendships made. We immediately hit it off and found that although we come from opposite ends of the country, we shared many similarities including total excitement for what was to come!
It was hard to recognize any of us the next day dressed in our finest. Dillard’s may have provided Austin with his clothes, but it was Austin that provided the flair! He was sporting a red suit jacket over a buttoned down jacquard shirt with black pants and fancy shoes- escorted by his Grandmother adorned in an elegant blue gown and wrap. We would blend in with the Hollywood crowd for sure!
The Limo was a black Suburban with smoked windows, and to Austin’s surprise loaded with his favorite candy, snacks and yes Dr. Pepper! We were off to a great start 😉 As it turned out, our driver Scott, the owner of Top Shelf Limo Service, is also the preferred driver to Lil Wayne, Austin’s favorite rapper/performer. The two of them were two peas in a pod and swapped Lil Wayne stories the entire ride. Austin lit up as Scott regaled us with insider scoop on Lil Wayne – highlighting what a great guy he is, how smart he is and how incredibly hard working he is… Austin was mesmerized by every detail.
Once we arrived at L.A. Live and saw the “limo line” we thought we better stop to get something to eat before show time. It was hilarious to see us hop out of a limo and run into a Subway for quick sustenance, which turned out to be a great decision. We hopped back in and drove through the VIP entrance which still had amazing security detail including sniffing dogs, x-rays and even a radiation detector. We were then dropped off behind the red carpet and were able to catch glimpses as the celebrities rushed to their seats or backstage.
The venue was spectacular, and you could feel the buzz in the air as people were all dressed in their Hollywood best and milling around to be seen. Our Orchestra seats were incredible, right behind the people pit and close enough to really “feel” every performance. Austin’s favorite was the collaboration between Post Malone, Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott. I think Cheryl enjoyed Shania Twain and Taylor Swift the most, and I admit to leaning towards Toni Braxton and Billie EilishJ. It was amazing to watch how quickly they change the sets and the entire show was fast, upbeat and uplifting. The show itself was a celebration of all music genres, and the audience was on their feet most of the time.
Still revved up after the show, we walked a short distance to the JW Marriott after party. Upon entering you were enveloped in the music and sites. Everyone was still buzzing about the show, there were girls dancing in hoops suspended from the ceiling, hors d’oeuvres for the taking in what looked like small cubicle book cases spread about, couches, low tables, high tables and people everywhere! I convinced Austin to join me on the dance floor so we could both claim to have danced at a Hollywood after party which he hesitantly gave into! We talked with a few folks and then spotted one of the show’s presenters- Jharrel Jerome from the Oscar winning movie Moonlight. He graciously took pictures with us and wished Austin all the best.
The night ended with an impromptu limo drive-thru at the iconic In and Out Burger for burgers and fries!
I must say that my favorite part of the experience was witnessing the bond between Austin and his Grandmother. How they both beamed at the other’s excitement, and how they support each other in every way. Although they have endured many hardships, they’re both so joyful and loving that it is my privilege to now call them friends.
Shout out to Kids Wish Network for giving us even more to be grateful for, and for spreading joy to so many kids and their advocates all across our nation. This Thanksgiving I’ll be adding Austin and Cheryl, as well as Kids Wish Network to the list of people and experiences I am most thankful for.
Happy Holidays to All~